In the early morning hours of Friday, Jan. 24, hundreds of King County residents gathered at dozens of meeting points throughout the County to walk their carefully assigned areas and count the people they saw on the streets, sleeping on benches, huddled in makeshift shelters or camping in cars. It was the annual One Night Count of homeless persons, coordinated by the Seattle-King County Coalition on Homelessness, with funding support from the Committee to End Homelessness (CEH). On that night, a total of 3,113 people were counted outdoors without safe and secure shelter. That is an increase from the previous year. The count is a federal requirement and is conducted across the country in late January. A count of people in shelter and transitional housing is also conducted on the same night, with a report due in about a month.
Taking part in the street count was CEH Director Mark Putnam, who counted on a team in South King County and then traveled to Seattle headquarters to meet with reporters. Speaking after the count, Mark said, “Tonight is an indicator of both the needs of the homeless in our community but also the compassion of the community. We serve more than 9,000 households a year in our shelter and transitional housing programs, and we need to do more to meet the needs of those still living outside.”
(Photo: Linda Greenway, Janice Hougen and Debbi Knowles finalize the tally.)
Janice Hougen, Homeless Housing Planner with the Department of Community and Human Services’ (DCHS) Housing and Community Development Program, was a team leader in what was her 15th year of participation. Asked the importance of the count, Janice said it helps to build understanding in the community about homelessness and particularly for the hundreds of volunteers, makes homelessness feel more “real” when they see for themselves that people are sleeping outdoors on a cold January night. “Homelessness becomes more a call to action when you see it for yourself,” said Janice.
Janice and Mark were joined by staff from DCHS including Steve Andryszewski, Cindy Bergh, Gretchen Bruce, Steve Collins, Greg Ferland, Dan Floyd, Marquis Frank, Linda Greenway, Sherry Hamilton, Jon Hoskins, Valerie Kendall, Debbi Knowles, Pat Lemus, Adrienne Quinn, Chan Saelee, Janet Salm, Triina Tennelo and Amanda Thompkins.
“I do it year after year because it gives me the chance to pause from my day-to-day life and for just a few hours, get a sense of what it might be like to be out on the street at night with no place to go,” said Janice. “It is humbling. It is sad. But ultimately, it reinforces for me why this work is so important and reinvigorates me to keep working with our community to end homelessness.”
Want to know more about the count or maybe participate next year? Speak to Janice Hougen or Cindy Bergh or any of the staff who participated in the count this year.
Reprinted from DCHS’s Touching Base newsletter.